NOVEMBER 12, 2010 (STAR) Fitting for a presidential memoir, George W. Bush's "Decision Points" is a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the 84-year-old institution that offers top sellers and critical favorites at discount prices.

Surprising for a memoir by a president whose "base" was more to the right than for any chief executive since Ronald Reagan, "Decision Points" is only an alternate at the Conservative Book Club, a 50,000-member organization founded in 1964 and adhering to the motto of "Conservatives Serving Conservatives."

Editor-in-chief Elizabeth Kantor wouldn't offer a specific reason why Bush was not a main selection, a status granted to former top Bush aide Karl Rove's "Courage and Consequences." She did note, "It is true that conservatives have mixed feelings" about Bush and cited the No Child Left Behind Act and the growth of government during his administration.

Bush's book, released Tuesday, sold at least 222,000 copies through its first day of sale, according to the Crown Publishing Group, and topped the best-seller list of even before release. But his standing in the conservative book club reflects an ongoing hesitation among some of his supposed core followers.

Asked for comment, Crown spokesman David Drake responded: "As the president might say, I'm not going to wade back into the swamp."

Conservatives will see a lot of Bush during his promotional tour. He is giving interviews to Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and other favorites of the right, and will make a few appearances on the Fox News Channel. But he is not universally praised. Glenn Beck, for example, has called Bush a "progressive" Republican and suggested he helped pull Republicans away from conservative principles.

"What do you think hurt the Republican Party?" Beck said on his radio show last year, referring to the 2008 election. "Do you think it was conservative values? Or do you think it was the progressive side of George W. Bush?"

Marji Ross, president and publisher of Regnery Publishing, a sister company of the conservative book club, said that Bush will eventually rise among the right because of foreign policy and his stands on national security. But she acknowledged that, for now, conservatives fault him for not fighting hard enough to reduce the government.

"That was certainly a weakness of his presidency," Ross says.

"By the time he left office, there were certainly people on the right who were not happy with everything he did," says Adrian Zackheim, who heads the conservative imprint Sentinel at Penguin Group (USA) that next year will publish the memoir of Bush's secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. "But one thing Bush's memoir can do is give everyone a big picture of what he did as president and remind conservatives of the many policies that they supported."

The Conservative Book Club's current selections are far more focused on criticizing Obama than celebrating Bush, with popular works including Dinesh D'Souza's "The Roots of Obama's Rage," Laura Ingraham's "The Obama Diaries" and David Limbaugh's "Crimes Against Liberty." Among Regnery releases, Ross cited Mark Thiessen's "Courting Disaster," a defense of Bush's terrorism policies, but said she wasn't seeing books that offered a broad review of his administration.

"We get proposals for books about conservative governing, but they're much more abstract, about how they want the government to be. They're not about returning to the Bush years or even to a Reagan set of principles," Ross says.

In "Decision Points," Bush strongly backs his fiscal priorities. He refers to major tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 and his efforts to set up overhaul social security, a longtime conservative goal. He includes charts showing reductions in spending and debt as a percentage of the overall domestic economy. He objected to "wasteful earmarks" proposed by Congress, but writes that he lacked a line-item veto another conservative priority to prevent them.

But he also writes proudly of No Child Left Behind and his ability to work with a liberal champion, Sen. Edward Kennedy. Bush's book has respectful words for President Obama, finding him well-prepared and thoughtful at a financial crisis summit in 2008 that had been requested by Obama's rival for the presidency, Sen. John McCain. While Limbaugh and others have openly rooted for Obama to fail, Bush told Oprah Winfrey in an interview that aired this week, "I want our president to succeed. I love our country."

Ross said she expected, and hoped for, tougher words in the upcoming memoir of Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney.

"For one thing, Cheney has been more vocal since he left office in defending some of the things he stood for and taking on the Obama administration," Ross says. "I think people expect the president to be more circumspect about criticizing his successor. So in that sense his book may be a little more tame, whereas I think people expect Dick Cheney to come out firing and be a little more aggressive. And that's frankly a little more fun."

Bush book praised in Dallas, criticized overseas

[PHOTO - People line up around the back of the book store where former President George W. Bush is signing copies of his book in Dallas, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/LM Otero)]

DALLAS - Autograph-seekers descended on a Dallas shopping centre Tuesday as former President George W. Bush officially kicked off the release of his new memoir, receiving praise for his candour at a hometown bookstore even as his renewed defence of waterboarding as an interrogation tactic was greeted with derision overseas.

First in line at the Borders store about a mile from Bush's Dallas home were Terry and Tammy Jones of suburban Justin, who camped out overnight. They said when they told Bush of their wait, he said he'd sign their books "with admiration," shaking 53-year-old Terry Jones' hand and kissing his wife's.

"Eighteen hours for two seconds and a kiss on the hand," Tammy Jones, 52, said with a smile.

Terry Jones said he admired Bush because "when he makes a decision, he sticks with it."

But such steadfastness also prompted criticism Tuesday in Europe, where reports about Bush's memoir "Decision Points" focused on waterboarding.

In an interview in The Times of London, Bush said the tactic forced the alleged 9/11 mastermind to provide information that prevented attacks in London's Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf business district. Prime Minister David Cameron's office subsequently restated the British government's belief that waterboarding is illegal. Kim Howells, a former lawmaker who chaired the House of Commons' intelligence and security committee, expressed doubts about Bush's claim.

In France, the Le Monde newspaper noted an "absence of regret" in Bush's defence of waterboarding.

In a more lighthearted moment, Bush said in interview that aired Tuesday on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that writing the memoir "was an easy process."

"A lot of people don't think I can read, much less write," he joked.

As in the book, Bush also recounted to Winfrey the mistakes of his presidency, saying he still feels "sick" about the fact no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. His response to Hurricane Katrina could have been quicker, he said, and he acknowledged he didn't see the financial meltdown coming.

Bush, however, had nothing negative to say about President Barack Obama, whom Winfrey famously supported in 2008.

"I didn't like it when people criticized me," Bush said. "And so you're not going to see me out there chirping away (at Obama). And I want our president to succeed. I love our country."

Largely out of the public view since he left office, Bush is now vigorously promoting his book, with planned appearances across the country this week and as the Miami Book Fair International's featured author this weekend.

Bush even called in to conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh's radio program Tuesday, voicing support for an extension of his administration's tax cuts and denying reports he privately criticized fellow Republican John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate. But when asked his opinion about Arizona's controversial immigration legislation, Bush told Limbaugh: "you're trying to get me to make news."

"I don't want to make news, I want to sell books of course," Bush said laughing.

His memoir does offer revelations though, including his confirmation that the target of a 2007 Israeli airstrike was a Syrian nuclear reactor and suggestion he quietly approved the action. Bush also reveals Israel first asked the U.S. to bomb the site, but his administration refused.

In Israel, one of the few places Bush remained popular throughout his term, media coverage of the book focused on his warm praise for ex-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, support for Israel's tough crackdown on Palestinian militants in the last decade and animosity toward the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

More than 2,000 copies of "Decision Points" sold by the time Bush left the Dallas store at 11 a.m. Tuesday, said David Drake, a spokesman for the Random House Inc. imprint Crown Publishers. The former president was able to sign copies for 1,300 customers and provided signed bookplates for 500 others, said Drake, who added that the remainder of the crowd he estimated at 2,500 received instructions for getting a bookplate later.

Holly McKnight, a legally blind 36-year-old from Arlington who visited the Dallas event, said she was thrilled the audio book read by Bush was available the same day as the print edition.

McKnight said she told Bush, "Thank you for all you do. You are prayed for," as he signed her book.

"Keep it up, it works," he responded.

Adrienne Cantwell, 57, of Coppell, stood in line with her 18-year-old daughter since Monday night. Cantwell said she and her husband both served in the Air Force and their son also has served in the military.

"He might send us to hard places, but he still cared about what happened to us and he supported us," she said of Bush. "He gave us what we needed."

Amber Fletcher, a 23-year-old student at Texas Women's University, said she was eager to read the memoir.

"Everybody plays the blame game and I just want to know his side of the story," said Fletcher, who wore a T-shirt bearing a smiling Bush giving a thumbs up and the phrase "Miss Me Yet." She stopped to have her picture snapped with about five protesters who held signs, including one reading "Torture is illegal," at the corner of the shopping centre.

Associated Press writers Carla K. Johnson in Chicago and Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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